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Written Commentary

Paper, Order, or Assignment Requirements
Written Assignment Guidelines
To provide a short written commentary each on three different articles.
One of two homework assignments for the entire course will be to prepare written
commentaries of news articles or reports that discuss the use of a microbe, the impact or importance of a microbe, or some story relevant to microbiology. The goal is to increase your awareness of and ability to interpret news articles about microorganisms. You will need to provide a short written (one-page) commentary for each article and a copy of the entire article. Submit each written commentary and the accompanying article through Safe Assign on ilearn. Your instructor will keep a record of all your commentaries and articles. The commentary should focus on the biology of the microorganism(s) and not just on the event(s) reported in the article. For example, you may come across an interesting news report of how a‘flesh–eating’ bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, has ‘devoured’ the face of a victim. Your commentary should not simply report on the event, but also on the biology of S. aureus. You should be aware that most newspaper articles of such nature may not provide too many details
about the microorganisms. Therefore, you should then look up the information on the
microorganisms and provide the extra information in your commentary (see the “Requirements”section below for details of appropriate references to use). Thus, by doing this exercise, you will become familiar with publications, websites and library resources which provide more detailed information about specific topics. An example of a well written commentary will be presented inclass for your reference.
General requirements
Three articles and short (one-page) commentaries (approximately one article every 3
weeks) are required. The inclusion of a commentary is meant to demonstrate that you have read and thought about the article. Articles may be selected from virtually any source (newspapers,periodicals, professional/organizational magazines, or if appropriate, book chapters). You may also turn to the internet for information; in class, you will be given instructions on how to determine if the internet websites that you have chosen are appropriate sources from which scientifically reliable information can be extracted. We encourage you not to use scientific journal articles as the sources of your written commentaries because they are often too technical and often limited in scope. However, you may use and cite scientific articles as references in
your written commentaries. In fact, this will demonstrate that you have done further readings on your chosen topics (see the ‘Overview’ section above for reasons why you should read and cite other references for certain articles, e.g. newspaper reports). You may use and cite information from Wikipedia as references but do not use Wikipedia as the source of your articles. Consistent with UCR’s academic regulation, plagiarism will not be tolerated (hence, you are submitting your assignments via Safe Assign). Assignments that are found to contain plagiarized contents will not be graded and this information will be passed along to the administration. Copying and
pasting from websites is very easy to spot and easily provable by Safe Assign.
The Articles
Articles that focus on the review of a microbe/microbes are acceptable, but they should be centered on some aspects of the biology or impact of the microbe(s) and not just a run-on description of the microbe(s). You do not need to obtain articles that are hot off the press, but they should be relevant to current times. Older articles (>10 years) are acceptable provided that the topics are not obsolete.
The Written Commentary
Your commentary should be written using complete sentences and proper grammar. You are encouraged to present your commentaries using the template provided on the last page of this document as a guide. If the article is brief and/or does not provide much information on amicrobe, it is expected you will pursue additional references. Note that the suggested textbook, Microbes and Society, is a suitable additional reference. If the article is not brief, then you might learn the most from a thorough reading, focusing your efforts on thinking about and understanding what is in the article. Your commentary should emphasize the biology of an organism or a group of organisms
Articles from detailed, technical publications such as the Journal Science, Nature,
Environmental Biotechnology, and scores of other scientific journals are going to be filled with many subtopics and discussion materials. If you choose to write about an article from one of these sources, be aware that you are not just going to pick on and write about one subtopic from the article. Rather, you have to demonstrate that you have read the entire article (presumably because you are interested in it and have decided to write about it!) by commenting on the entire article. Clearly, it would be difficult to condense everything in detailed articles such as these into a few sentences. At the very least, try to provide the best overview of the content. Here is an example taken from a review of microorganisms associated with water pollution control: “This article reviews the complexity of steps and processes involved in water pollution management through the application of environmental biotechnology (EB), described as.…… The article introduces many technical terms such as bioremediation, co-metabolism biotransformation kinetics, etc. employed in the basic and applied aspects of EB. Microbes that have been deployed for EB-mediated water pollution management include Deinococcus radiodurans…”.
Examples of periodical sources for news articles and reports
Web sites
There are innumerable web sites from which you can obtain your articles. These may be
websites that specifically focus on microorganisms or websites for periodicals that permit online
access to articles. However, do not pick websites indiscriminately as not all websites contain
scientifically correct information. Most .gov and .edu websites are fine. Not all .org websites are
appropriate. Avoid .com websites as these may contain information that is meant to promote the
sales and endorsement of certain products.
Some common periodicals, non-technical
Science News, Discover, Scientific American, New Scientist, Bioscience, Natural
History, Popular Science, Science Daily, Phys.org
Some uncommon periodicals
American Bee Journal, Jack’s “Bugs in the News” off the internet, “Dairy Foods”
You are encouraged to use the template below for your commentary:
PLP10 Microbes and Society, Fall 2014 Name:
Article #:
Title of Article:
Microbes common and scientific name:
Type of organism: (fungus, bacterium, virus, protist)
Follow the instructions below to complete the commentary and then delete this ‘text box’ prior to starting.
Use the rest of the space on this page for your ‘commentary’ and address the below questions. Do not go over one page. If you use a website, give the name of the website and specific URL of the article in the above ‘source’ section.
What is the impact or importance of the microbe? That is, why is it being written about?
Where applicable, answering some (or all) of these additional questions can form the basis of the commentary.
What does the microbe live on (the food source or energy, or in the case of a disease, the host)?
Where does the microbe live (ecological habitat, geographic distribution)?
How does the microbe ‘overwinter’, survive, or spread?
How does the microbe reproduce?
Why is the microbe successful?
In answering the above questions, you may well be addressing issues somewhat different than those discussed in the article. One of the goals in this course is to understand basic principles of microbial life. In some cases, an article may be quite relevant, but not discuss a specific microbe. An example would be a report on the development of or impact of an antibiotic. In these cases, you will need to develop your own set of questions addressed in a commentary. In the case of a newly developed antibiotic, relevant questions might be: What microbes can be controlled by the antibiotic? or What microbes have developed resistance to currently available antibiotics? if you use additional references, add a “References cited “section but still do not go over one page.

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